January 20th, 2009


Happy Inauguration Day!

I love New York.

We wanted to see the inauguration in company, so we went to Symphony Space, a couple blocks down Broadway, where they broadcast everything, for free, on their two big screens. By the time we got there, the main theatre was full (except for the school groups that had reserved space) and people were waiting in line to see if there would be standing room. We were in front of two women, one a voluble African American woman in her 60's wearing a natty fur hat, high heeled-boots, and a gorgeous pair of Obama earrings she'd made the night before. We chatted about many things, waiting to see if we'd get in: the earrings (of course), the fact that her mother was just 20 years older than she and her daughter just 20 years younger, how cool it was that the inauguration of the first African American president of the US took place the day after Martin Luther King's birthday, how important it was that kids have a sense of history, of where culture comes from.

She got in, finally. So did we. We were in the old Thalia, now the Leonard Nimoy, where they have the Garbo and Hitchcock festivals. The audience here was mostly middle schoolers, maybe 60% African American, who preserved a reverent silence, even through the music and the poetry (although there were giggles when Yo Yo Ma's name was announced). They lasted through Obama's whole speech without a peep, and gave him a standing ovation at the end. My friend from on line, on the other hand, engaged actively with what was going on. From time to time, I could hear her voice across the theatre (we were sitting in the boxes on the extreme side of the theatre), calling Amen and You Tell It. The lady in front of me was crying. And all the way home, walking up Broadway, people were grinning and saying "Happy Inauguration Day!"

Which it is. I love having a president who can not only talk to us as if we were intelligent human beings, but make idealism sound like practical, hard-headed realism. I love having a president who talks about unity and cooperation and tolerance without sounding like a resident of another planet, the one with Care Bears and candy-colored unicorns. I love how having him as president makes New Yorkers smile at each other and wait patiently in line and want to be together instead of the way they usually are.

Long may he wave.